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The Lairds of Glenlyon: Historical Sketches
Chapter 5


THE spirit of clanship, aggressive beyond its own pale, was strictly conservative within. The chief of a large clan felt it as much his bounden duty to see to the stability and welfare of the chieftains, as they, in their turn, were obliged to look to the happiness and preservation of their dependents. It has already been shown how Robert Campbell involved himself in difficulties that proved insurmountable. He struggled on for a few years; but, sinking deeper and deeper, recourse was ultimately had to the Comhairl'-taighe of the clan of Diarmid. The following deed, by which the chief, and the next most powerful nobleman of the clan, were nominated trustees, in order, if possible, to restore the Laird of Glenlyon to his former independence, was the result. The document s given, as far as it can be deciphered, literatim et verbatim:—

"Be it kend to all men be thir present Letters, Mr Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, Forsameikle as I considering, That [In most documents older than 1700, and in not a few of later date, the character "y" represents the alphabet letters " th."] yr are severall debts, soumes of monney, and oyr incumberances affecting and burdeineing my Lands and others belonging to me, tending to the apparent ruine and distructione of my esteat and fortoune, iff not tymously prevented by prudent and wholsome councill and advyce ; And yt it is simply and altogether impossible for me, be my-self allon, to take course with the sd debts and incumberances, and to manadge my affaires and concernements, so as to freile relieve, and disburden my Lands and esteat yrof, without the councill, advyce, and concurrence of some of my good freinds in whom I repose my trust. And lykeways understanding how easie I may be circumveined and deceived in the management of my affaires, by subtile and craftie persones, who have designes upon me, and may intyse me to the dilapidatione of my Lands, rents, goods, and geir, to my great hurt and prejudice; And I being fully persuaded, and haveing good prooff and experience, off the love and kyndnes my noble and reale freinds, Archibald, Earle off Argyle, and John, Earle off Caithnes, have towards me, and for the standing of my familie, whose advyce and councill I now resolve to use, and be whom I am heirefter to be governed in all my affaires and business. Thairfor witt ye me to be bound and obleidged, Lykeas I, be thir prts, faithfully bind and obleidge me, noways to sell, annailzie, wad-set, dispone, dilapidat, nor putt away, non of my Lands, heretages, nor rents, tacks, haddings, possessiones, goods and geir, moveable and imoveable, to whatsom-ever persone or persones, nor to make noe privat nor publict disposi-tiones, resignationes, remunerationes, assignationes, translationes, discharges, nor any oyr right yrof, nor of no pairt of the same, nor to make any contracts, bonds, obligationes, or oyr writts, qrby the same in haill or in pairt, may be wasted, apprysed, or adjudged ; nor contract debt, nor make * * Hr nor bargaines, nor doe any oyr fact nor deed anent the premises without the joint advyce, consent, and assent of my fsd noble and reale freinds, Archibald, Earle of Argyle, and John, Earle of Caithnes, and, in case of any of their deceases, with the consent of the surviver first hade and obtained yrt in writt. Without whose consent as fsd, and in case of any of their deceases, without consent of the surviver, I shall doe nothing concerneing the premises. Wheirin if I faillie, or doe in the contrarie, I doe heirby will and declaire, that all such deeds soe to be done be me shall be voyd and null in themselves, as if the same hade never bein made, and yt be way of escruptione or reply, without necessitie of any declarator to follow yrupone. And for the more securitie, I am content and consent thir pr's be regrat in the books of Councill and Sessione, or any oyr books competent to have the streanth of ane dec'- of the Lords or Judges yrof underponed yrto—that letters of publicatione and others necessar in forme as effeires may be direct theirupone; and to that effect constitute-----------my prcrs. In witnes qrof, I have sub'- thir prts. (written by Colin Campbell, procr in Edinr') with my hand at witnesses—James Currie and Sir William Binning, late Provest of Edinr- the fyft of (August) jm- vic- and eightie-one yeires, befor thir Edinr- and Sir Patrick Threip-Land, late Provest of Perth, * * and witnes my hand, R. Campbell, off Glenlyon.

James Currie, Witnes.
W. Binning, Witnes.
P. Thriep-Land, Witnes."

The month in the attesting clause is partly obliterated, but appears to be what is given above ; and, if so, it was exactly 24 days after Argyle's imprisonment. This is no cause for surprise. The Laird saw in his imprisonment nothing but a slight cloud, from which the chief would emerge with undimmed brightness. The astute Breadalbane, who guaged to a nicety the plots and counterplots of those miserable days, perceived at a glance that all was over with the Earl ; for the Duke of York never forgave an affront, and the free-spoken and patriotic Argyle had affronted him deeply on the subject of the test. Breadal-bane, who had already broken off with the chief of the clan, was in high favour with the party in power, and within seven days after the above factory was signed—the Parliament settling, very favourably for him, the dispute between him and Sinclair of Keiss—he exchanged the title of Caithness for that of Breadalbane and Holland. The Red Douglases succeeded the Black ; and when the star of Argyle was sinking, why should not that of Breadalbane arise ? Nothing hindered it certainly, but that the chieftains of the name had a very strong prejudice against rallying around any other banner but Macaileinmore's. His future deeds show clearly that Breadalbane aimed at succeeding to the influence, if not to the property, of the Argyles, and the foregoing is just a specimen of the way he went about breaking in the chieftains to his will. The family of Glenlyon, more nearly related than almost any other, was traditionally hostile to his, and the present Laird, though in his meshes, was not uniformly docile ; at any rate, there was no harm in making assurance double sure; and so the foregoing was one of the many moves in the game he played for the leadership of the clan. The Revolution, as it finally upset all his plans, taught Breadalbane that "the best laid schemes of mice and men gang oft ajee;" but even after that, he showed he had not given up the darling hope of his life in despair. To relieve Glenlyon immediately was no part of Breadalbane's policy, which, to a great extent, might have been done by simply paying, what was his due, the bond of 5000 pounds granted to him for the expedition to Caithness This was not done; indeed, it was not all paid up at the Earl's death in 1716. Glenlyon traditions go much farther than this in accusing the Earl; but I have confined myself to what, as regards the facts, can be proved, for, much as he wished to make the Laird a useful and obedient dependent, I cannot see how, at this time at least, it would have subserved Breadalbane's interest—and he always looked to his interest—to put an extinguisher on the family of Glenlyon ; and I am the more confirmed in this opinion, as he did the family at a later period, when they were too reduced to be feared, some acts of real kindness, and as the successor of Robert Campbell confided in him as his friend and patron. It is delightful to find that, when deserted by those who ought to have supported him, the M'Gregors repaid with grateful devotion the protection extended to their ancestors by Colin Gorach and his brave son. After more than a century of persecution and wrong—by which the clan had been nearly extinguished, and lost all their possessions—it was not to be expected that they could command much money.

"But, doomed and devoted by vassal and lord,
The M'Gregors had still both their heart and their sword."

Their little hoard was heartily at Campbell's service, and he availed himself of it without scruple. The following, among others, at different periods between 1673 and 1700, advanced sums varying from 100 to 300 merks each, to the distressed family of Glenlyon—viz., Duncan M'Gregor. corrector to the press, Savoy, London; Duncan Menzies, late M'Gregor, Ardlarich, Rannoch; Janet M'Gregor, Innervar, Glenlyon; Duncan Murray, late M'Gregor, Roro, Glenlyon; Archibald M'Gregor, Ardlarich, Rannoch. The clan at this time was completely broken, without chief or chieftain, and, in the majority of cases, obliged to assume other names. The M'Gregors, unlike the other creditors, patiently waited for twenty or thirty years, till the Glenlyon family could conveniently repay them, without having recourse to any legal coercion.

Argyle—condemned through a most shameless perversion of justice—when preparations were made for his execution, escaped from the Castle of Edinburgh, December, 1681, disguised as the page of his daughter-in-law, Sophia Lindsay. In passing the sentry at the gate, the Earl is said to have been so agitated as to let the lady's train drop in the mud, which she, with admirable presence of mind, snatching up, and scolding the pretended page as a careless loun, threw it into his face, thereby besmearing his features beyond all recognition. During his exile in Holland was hatched that ill-assorted plan of descent upon England and Scotland which brought Argyle and Monmouth to the scaffold. Argyle arrived at Tobermory, in Mull, in May, 1685, and after a series of disasters, was taken prisoner near Dumbarton, in June, and beheaded at Edinburgh on the 26th of the same month, without the formality of a new trial. The fate of the chief—as Breadalbane was either unable or unwilling to succour him—left the Laird of Glenlyon without hope or refuge. His tenants were made aware of his difficulties. They laid their heads together, and, coming in a body, offered to give the Laird Leath-baich (half their byres), that is, the half of their cattle, for, from the earliest times downwards, cattle constituted the wealth of the Highlands. Campbell, justly proud of this splendid proof of attachment to his family, yet hesitated to accept their offer. He consulted his relative, Duncan Campbell, Roroyare, afterwards of Duneaves, who strongly advised him not to receive the gift, but rather sell a part of the property to pay the debts, and have the remainder free; "for," says he, "take their cattle, and you are forever their slave; you cannot claim an additional kain-hen without their concurrence." It may be added, in explanation, that originally the chiefs levied no regular rent, but were solely supported by the self-imposed and voluntary contributions agreed upon by the clansmen themselves, according to their opinion of the exigency of the need. The feudal charters that many of them had early obtained were calculated to strengthen against oppression from without, and also to arm them with powers to oppress within. The voluntary rate was called Calpa, while the feudal rent was named Kain. In 1685, feudal tenure was so little popular in Glenlyon, that the idea of a chieftain alienating his lands was scarcely understood, and leases were altogether unknown, each man succeeding to his father's holding, unmolested by the Laird as long as he paid the customary calpa and followed him in war; while the spirit of clanship was so strong as to dictate an offer like the preceding, for maintaining the standing of an ancient family. Robert finally decided upon not despoiling his tenants, and, consequently, upon selling the bulk of his property. But as he was jealous of the interested motives of some gentlemen of his own clan—his friendly adviser and near relative especially—he determined no Campbell should succeed him. The whole estate of Glenlyon—Chesthill and the other jointure lands of his wife excepted—was privately sold to Lord Murray, Earl of Tullibardine, afterwards Duke of Athole. Soon after it became known that the glen was to be sold, the Laird was present at a deer-hunt in the Braes, when the deer, hard beset, took to the loch, which, as it is of no great extent, was immediately surrounded by keen sportsmen. It happened, in the cross-firing which followed, that Robert had a very narrow escape from being killed by a stray ball. On telling his escape, when the men congregated after the hunt, an old retainer of the family sharply turned round, and asked, "Where did it strike?" "Between my legs," replied the Laird. "Would to heaven," exclaimed the old man, "it had been between your loins, for then Glenlyon would not be sold."

On the 14th March, 1689, the Convention of the Estates, called together by circular letters from the Prince of Orange, already acknowledged King of England, met at Edinburgh. Momentous events, big with the fate of Scotland, followed in rapid succession. Duke Gordon, at the instigation of Dundee, refuses to deliver up the Castle to the Convention; the King's friends are outvoted, and Duke Hamilton chosen president; William's letter is received, that of James read only under protest; the royalists prepare to withdraw from the Convention, and to convene a counter meeting at Stirling; Athole wavers; Dundee's life is threatened, and he leaves Edinburgh and bursts into the North, Eluding the vigilance of Mackay, he makes Lochaber his muster ground, and warns the Jacobites to assemble there in force on the 18th of May. In the interval, he comes himself to Athole, and confirms the Atholemen, probably by the connivance of their marquis, in their allegiance to King James. He makes an irruption as far as Dundee, surprising Perth on the way, and nearly taking Dundee. Returning to the mustering place, he leads the clans into Athole, and fixes upon Strowan for his head-quarters. Mackay, baffled in the north, has returned to Edinburgh, and by his prudence and sagacity restored confidence to the alarmed Convention. Afraid of allowing Dundee time to recruit from all parts of the Highlands, and the disaffected districts of the Lowlands—for which the central position of Athole afforded unusual facilities—Mackay, with a hardihood that does him credit, determined to attack the foe in his mountain fastnesses. Marching from Perth with an army nearly double that of Dundee, he penetrated the Pass of Killiecrankie without opposition, but there a defeat awaited him such as seldom befel a general. The battle of Killiecrankie restored to James alt beyond the Forth; and, looking to the probabilities of the case, nothing could have saved the rest of Scotland from a similar fate, had not the levin-bolt been quenched in the blood of Dundee. Cannan, who succeeded him, was altogether unworthy of his position; and, by the little trust the clans had in his abilities, and his own remissness allowed all the fruits of the victory to escape from his grasp.

Among those who preserved a dubious neutrality while these things were taking place—but who would undoubtedly have joined the royalists had Dundee outlived his victory— was the Earl of Breadalbane. In a letter to the Laird ot M'Leod, dated Moy, June 23rd, 1689, Dundee says—"I had almost forgot to tell you of my Lord Broadalbin, who, I suppose, will now come to the fields." But he was soon better informed; for, in a letter to Lord Melfort, four days after, he says—"Earl Breadalbin keeps close in a strong house; he has and pretends the gout." The difference in the spelling almost proves, that, in the interval, Dundee had received a written missive from the Earl, who had then commenced to spell his name as in the second letter, in preference to the older mode, previously used by Dundee. The truth is, Pale John, as he was called in the Highlands, did not wish to see the family of Argyle re-established by the Revolution, and his own expanding influence contracted thereby. He, therefore, desired well for the royalists, but was too wise a man to risk his all, until victory had irrevocably chained success to their banners. After the death of Argyle in 1685, and the sale of the greater part of his own patrimony, which was nearly contemporaneous, the Laird of Glenlyon submitted to the chain his fathers had spurned, and became a most obedient dependent of Breadalbane; and in this great national crisis especially identified himself with the latter's policy—viz., like him, remained at home. Immediately after the battle of Killiecrankie, when neutrals and foes dreaded alike the depredations and vengeance of the victorious clans, the Laird obtained the following protection from Cannan, the successor of Dundee, which, from motives of delicacy in allowing him to choose his own party, is granted in name of his wife, but is addressed "To the Laird of Glenlyon," and runs thus :—

"Thes are dischairging all, upon sight heirof, from troubling, molesting, wronging, or injurying the person of Helen Linsay, Lady Glenlyon, hir Bairnes, or servants, or annie goods or gear properlie belonging to hir self; and whoever contravein, shall not only repair the damadge, bot shall be punised according to justice. Given under my hand at lochend, the second day off Agust, jm. vie and eightie-nein, H. W. Canan."

Appended is a note from the Laird of M'Naughton:—

"Cussen—I received yours, and have proquired this above-written protection, and what service I can doe you, or your familie, shall not be omitted by him who is your most affectionate Cussen & Servant,

"J. M'Nachtan.

" Pray haste to the stander with all your men."

We shall see hereafter how far this protection availed for the purpose for which it was granted.


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